Normally, when a play calls for audience participation, I would kindly decline, tip my hat and moonwalk out of the building. It’s also why I avoid sitting in the front row. Laura, however, is such a high-energy, laugh-out-loud romp of a play, that you can’t avoid being sucked into the action.
Written and performed by Elina Alminas, Laura kicks off before you can get too comfortable in your seats. With the house lights still on, a woman rushes onto the empty stage. The blank slate around her adds weight to her appearance, dressed in a wedding gown and veil, mascara running down her face. Her tearful sobbing and wide-open eyes give her a crazed look, someone we might try to ignore or at least not get too close to.
We discover that it’s Laura’s wedding day, but her groom is nowhere to be seen. However, the canapés and chilled champagne are already paid for, so why not enjoy them. Thus, we become one of Laura’s wedding guests, suddenly finding ourselves sitting next to Joe, Laura’s new flame whom she drags onto the dance floor, or in front of Bianca, who Laura chooses to take to the Maldives on the honeymoon since her so-called fiancé hasn’t shown up. Sadly, I wasn’t made one of Laura’s companions, but every time a new person is dragged into the limelight it is a joy to hear the whole audience embrace them with cheers and applause.
One of my favourite things about Laura is the accompanying soundtrack. We go from Brian Ferry’s cheesy soft rock single ‘Slave to Love’, to the gloriously exuberant ‘I Will Survive’. The songs are so perfectly chosen that they elevate each moment rather than drowning it, helped along by the energy Alminas emanates as she dances along.
It is the strength of Alminas performance, which gracefully navigates the world of audience interaction, where anything could happen. You are there for her. You want to listen to her. Heck, you would go after any man that ever hurt her in this way. Even at her lowest point, as she pours Xanax pills over her wedding cake and digs in, downing it with champagne, does she offer a moment of lightness by leading the audience in a guided breathing exercise.
Alminas being both writer and performer suits this piece well. It creates the intimate setting the play needs to work, an intimacy where you feel Laura wants you to enjoy yourself, but at the same time you can’t help but feel guilty for laughing at the poor woman’s misfortune.
I truly hope this isn’t the last time we see this piece performed. It is rare you find a play where everything just fits, and where a single character can suck you in and you willingly go along for the ride. Alminas is a performer who truly becomes one with her character. Smeared make-up, cake stained wedding dress and all.
Laura played at the Soho Theatre on December 10. For more information, click here.